Robert Dreyfuss

Robert Dreyfuss is a senior correspondent for The American Prospect. He is the author of Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam. He can be reached through his website.

Recent Articles

Rousing the Democratic Base

I f Al Gore finds himself standing across from Chief Justice Rehnquist, taking the oath of office in January, it would be fitting if Paul Lemmon were holding the Bible. As Pennsylvania state director for the national AFL-CIO , it's Lemmon's job to make sure that the state's 23 crucial electoral votes end up in Gore's column. Raised by Italian immigrants in the gritty coal and industrial heart of southwestern Pennsylvania, Lemmon is a longtime union official and organizer, first with the United Mine Workers and then with the AFL-CIO's national headquarters. In 1996 Lemmon oversaw the labor federation's voter mobilization efforts in 13 midwestern states, and earlier this year, he worked the Iowa caucuses. "Now," he says, "they've brought me back to Pennsylvania." That's a state where labor's turnout is likely to determine who wins. In 1996 voters from union households in Pennsylvania made up 29 percent of all voters and handed the state to Bill Clinton. According to the AFL-CIO, Clinton...

Political Snipers

The National Rifle Association knew its stance on assault weapons was unpopular, so in 1994 it went underground, took advantage of loopholes in the campaign finance laws, and waged a stealth campaign to unseat Democrats in vulnerable districts.

A nybody doubting the political clout of the National Rifle Association should speak to the members of Congress-and the now former members-who supported President Clinton's ban on assault weapons as part of the 1994 crime bill. In the campaign cycle surrounding that close vote, the NRA spent some $70 million on political activities, including nearly $7 million through its political action committee, much of it targeting Democrats who had supported the measure. Although polls showed the majority of Americans approved of the weapons ban, the NRA campaign was by most accounts a success. Democrats say the NRA cost them no fewer than 20 seats, and President Clinton told one reporter that "the NRA is the reason the Republicans control the House." Speaker Newt Gingrich, meanwhile, has promised the group's service will be rewarded: "As long as I am Speaker of this House," he wrote in a letter to an NRA official, "no gun control legislation is going to move." This is the story of how the NRA...

Orbit of Influence: Spy Finance and the Black Budget

America's huge budget for electronic reconnaissance might have come in for scrutiny after the Cold War. But the few in Congress who are supposed to watch over the world of spy finance are also big beneficiaries of it.

A spy satellite silently drifting across suburban Virginia and Maryland would count hundreds of buildings that are part of the vast and mostly hidden "intelligence-industrial complex." It is a network that stretches from coast to coast and around the world, reaching far into space and deep under the oceans. Although it is administered by government officials, this complex is engineered, manufactured, deployed, and maintained by private industry. Around Washington, from Reston and Tysons Corner, Virginia, to Columbia and Fort Meade, Maryland, the intelligence-industrial complex generates tens of billions of dollars a year in profitable government contracts that go to a handful of big contractors and scores of smaller subcontractors--with a grateful flowback of campaign funds from industry to compliant congressmen. Certainly there is a legitimate place for secret intelligence operations in the modern state. But political circumstances might suggest that this complex, like other...

Mississippi Waltz

While the House Republican leadership imploded after the 1998 elections, the Senate majority leader kept a low profile. Despite his reputation as a conservative ideologue, Trent Lott is a big-money pragmatist—some would say an opportunist.

L ast October, as Congress was scrambling to complete work on a series of last-minute spending bills that had been deadlocked all year, four members of the House of Representatives made a pilgrimage across the Capitol to see Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. With President Clinton crippled by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's inquiry and the prospect of impeachment, they argued, the moment was right for another Republican confrontation with the White House over the budget, even if that meant shutting down the government again. But, as former Senator Alan Simpson tells the story, Lott—recalling the disastrous results of the 1995–96 government shutdown provoked by Newt Gingrich's revolutionaries—was having none of it. "Good God! What have you been smoking?" said Lott, according to Simpson. "That was about the stupidest thing we ever did!" In the comedy of missteps, miscalculations, and overreaching that has marked the Republican Revolution since 1994, the GOP has...